This is the story of a young Nigerian, a second class upper degree in Economics and Accounting graduate from the University of Heriot-Watt, Edinburg, United Kingdom, who rather than scouting around for white collar jobs, chose to follow his own vision by becoming a shoemaker! This is the story of Chidubem Paul Nwosu aka Father Paul shoes as told by his mentor, Emeka Oparah.
About 4 weeks ago, I was getting into my car (after spending a whole day with the tailors) when a young chap came to me. I was initially put off by his extreme courteousness-and you must forgive me for that, because that’s how some of these lazy bones start when they want to beg for “alms”. But this young man was clearly different and that came through the moment he started talking to me.
He had a bag. That also got me a bit worried. Look,this is Lagos! And anything can happen. This young kid could obtain me, and nobody would know, I thought conspiratorially. But no, this one was different. This was was on a mission. This one had a vision. As he introduced himself, he brought out a pair of sandals. He is a Shoemaker! Wow!
You make shoes? I asked. “Yessir, I make shoes”, he responded in perfect English actually in cool British accent. I stepped right back out of my car and we went into the premises where we could make use of the light. His sandals were lovely. They were original. They were pure leather shoes. They were handmade. They were Made In Nigeria!
Then, he goes, “I love your sandals, sir”, pointing at my black sandals. I told him I love them too. I also told him I’ve had them for 7 years and wondered whether he could make me a brown copy of it-and brand it Ethelberts. He told me he could, and assured me he would deliver in 4 weeks-considering the time it would take to make the stamp for the Ethelberts name logo.
And so, last Thursday, Chidubem showed up with a pair of brown sandals with the Ethelberts name logo complete with a branded shoe bag! When I tried it on my sexy feet (babes say so) it felt better than the one I asked him to copy, which I actually bought 7 years ago in Russel & Bromley at the BrentCross Mall, UK! I couldn’t wait to share the images on Facebook the next day, and went ahead to model it to much acclaim-in spite of the diversionary tactics around it.
Chidubem Paul Nwosu is barely 23! The Nnewi-born Shoemaker, who goes by the trade Monicker “Father Paul” holds a Second Class Upper degree in Economics and Accounting from the University of Heriot-Watt, Edinburg, United Kingdom. According to him, upon completion of the NYSC last year, he launched his own company, Father Paul Fashion. He told me, “we are looking to partner with premium fashion brands, like yours, in order to showcase and promote quality and exquisitely finished made in Nigeria footwear.”
What more can I say. Chidubem is the kind of young people we are all praying for. I have a million and one reasons to support his dreams so he can realize his vision. He will make sandals and shoes for Ethelberts customers. He will make sandals for OBJ. He will make for Chief Michael Adeojo. He will make sandals for Prof. Pat Utomi. He will make sandals for Segun Ogunsanya. He will make sandals for Tito, my son. I will take him to these men, who actually inspire me, and many others to present his work and tell them his story. I will showcase his talent by associating his extremely fantastic work with the extremely fantastic clothes we make at Ethelberts (even if I say so myself!). He doesn’t just make sandals, by the way, ladies and gentlemen, he makes footwear!
Chidubem does not have to be an Mbaise man, by the way. Or an Igbo boy. He is an intelligent and handsome creation of the Great Architect of the Universe. He is a Nigerian. He is my brother. He could have been my son. I present to you this smart, brilliant, creative and visionary young man, who’d rather employ himself and employ others while making people happy with the works of his hand. Let us all support him by patronizing him.
Chidubem, take a bow, as you would, young man!
Mr Oparah is Vice President, Corporate Communications & CSR at Airtel Nigeria